Radio Interview with author Portia Iverson and Debra Mandel

Portia Iverson

Ideastream’s Eric Wellman recently spoke with Portia Iverson about how she taught her son to communicate, and with Deborah Mandel, head of the Monarch School for Children with Autism in Shaker Heights, OH and contributor to Autism Ahead. Portia Iverson’s web site which includes information about her new book is located at

Listen to the interview.

Monarch School Style Guide for Visual Supports for Teaching Children with Autism

The following is an excerpt from the Monarch School style guide used for developing visual teaching materials:

Images should conform to the following standards unless otherwise stated:

Image Colors

  • every image should have a black outline thick enough to be distinctly seen at a normal reading distance (12-14”) when printed at 1×1”
  • each image should be saved in 2 versions: Grayscale and Color
  • See color Palettes for guides to colors. When color fills are used they should be, as much as is possible, primary and secondary colors (RGBYCM). These colors should be muted (mix gray to mute colors). Avoid overly bright colors.
  • Try to keep number of colors to a minimum to clearly represent the subject of the drawing. There is no research to indicate the precise number of colors that could become distracting to a child. The guideline, based on experience for now will be 4 to 5 colors maximum. Only use more when absolutely necessary.
  • Drawing (image) backgrounds should be white or transparent unless the images gets difficult to separate from the background and in those cases a shade of gray should be used.
  • Images should be kept simple with only enough detail to help with image recognition. Excessive detail may distract a child on the Spectrum as they tend to focus on small details and miss the overall picture.
  • Some “empty” scenes will be requested (backgrounds with no subjects or objects placed in them), and those scenes should have only enough detail to give them context. As a guide, give just enough detail to make the scene recognizable. Students may be asked to place picture elements with the scene, for example an empty kitchen drawing could be created by the artist and the student would be asked to place a drawing of a pot on the stove, a dish in the sink, or a toaster on the counter.
  • Action (verbs) drawings will need to be created in static and animated forms…start with the static forms and more info will be forthcoming on the animated forms
  • Static action images should show slightly exaggerated sense of motion, but don’t overdo. Stray lines only tend to distract so avoid showing motion with lines representing the movement of air. Show only enough detail to imply an action. The student population will have members who will be easily distracted by overly detailed drawings.
  • Below are 2 color palettes to be used as the standards for color line drawings created. These are provided to establish consistency across the product base. Further, all the colors below are provided with the hexadecimal numbers corresponding to the exact digital colors used with the aim of keeping the color selections precise. The color choices were originally derived from the 256 color web palette and about half the colors were adapted to avoid the brightest reds, blues, greens and yellows. There are 21 colors, plus two recommended colors for light and dark skin tones, plus 3 shades of gray.

    Color Pallette 1
    Color Pallette 2
    (click pallettes to enlarge)

    Image Content

    When presented with a word choose the content with the following in mind:

  • choose a form that would be most familiar to a child of 5 to 12 years of age: Think about their environment and what experiences they may have had by that time in their lives
  • don’t add elements beyond those needed to most plainly represent the word. The idea is not to entertain, but to spark a mental connection between your drawing and it’s real world counterpart.
  • keep drawings as concrete as possible with enough details so it pictographically represents the subject and isn’t solely an abstract symbol for it, but not so concrete and detailed that the drawing has a photographic quality.
  • Car Bad1
    Car – Unacceptable (too much detail/subject distracting)
    Car Bad2
    Car – Unacceptable (too little detail)
    Car Good
    Car – Good (just enough detail)

    Dog - Bad
    Dog – Unacceptable (too indistinct, too many colors)
    Dog - Good
    Dog – Good (clear outline, just enough detail)

    Bio – Lauren Stafford

    Lauren Stafford is an Academic Supervisor for the Monarch School, the Director of Instructional Design for Monarch Teaching Technology and a contributor to Autism Ahead.

    Lauren graduated from Kent State University (1999), Magna Cum Laude with Bachelors in Special Education, with minors in psychology and fine arts. She has 8 years of experience teaching students on the autism spectrum. Experiences varies from PDD classrooms and in home parent services for public schools in Virginia, to teaching, training, and supervising staff in private school settings in the autism field. She has training in ABA, PECS, TEACCH, and Floortime.

    Lauren has been working for the Monarch School for 6 years. She assisted with developing the Monarch Model and coordinating a new outcomes system with staff from Boston Children’s Hospital and the Monarch School. Lauren continues to actively create visual content curriculum for children with autism. She is also involved as Local Professional Development Coordinator, Certified Mentor Teacher, and Entry Year Teacher Coordinator in association with the Ohio Department of Education.

    Bio – Jeff Richards

    Jeffery Richards, M.Ed. is the Director of Educational Multimedia Content for Monarch Teaching Technologies and a contributor to Autism Ahead.

    Jeff graduated Magna Cum Laude from Georgia Southern University with a Bachelor of Science in Education, and received his Masters Degree in Education in 1984. He taught in the public schools, and as both adjunct and full time faculty at the university level, and adjunct faculty at a community college. He completed a certified program in Educational Media and Audio Visual Technology. He has experience in photography, video production and editing, computer and Internet technology. He has extensive customer service experience in the private sector.

    For the past 4 years he has been working as the Instructional Media Specialist at the Monarch School for Children with Autism.